CHNM Labs Report on Mobile Usage in Museums

CHNM Labs released a new research report today, Mobile for Museums http://chnm.gmu.edu/labs/mobile-for-museums/. Funded by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the report assesses how art museums are incorporating mobile technologies into visitor experiences and offers replicable mobile prototypes based on those findings.

A survey of the field shows that for many years art museums have been at the forefront of offering their visitors learning experiences that extend beyond traditional exhibit labels. That trend continues as art museums add cell phone tours, podcasts, and platform-specific applications in an effort to capitalize on the commonly-owned portable devices—iPods, MP3 players, Blackberries, cell phones—that visitors already carry in their pockets.

CHNM found that while all genres of museums are very interested in offering content and unique experiences using mobiles, their biggest challenge is working with small budgets and a small staff, limiting their ability to develop content for mobiles.

To address these needs, Mobile for Museums offers recommendations and free, replicable prototypes based on this research on how to economically provide mobile users with positive experiences in and outside a museum.

These prototypes include:

• New plugins for the Omeka http://omeka.org software package allowing institutions to use already-created collections content and re-purpose it with plugins for use inside the gallery, including: Send to Mobile, Bar Codes, and Social Bookmarking.

• Website design optimized for cross-platform mobile browsers that is accessible by a variety of mobile and smart phones, for possible use outside of the gallery.

• A cross-platform application built in PhoneGap that harnesses the functionality native to a mobile device.

These examples are simply proofs of concept, but we hope that by making them and the code available http://code.google.com/p/art-in-the-city/ we will provide the museum community with some fresh possibilities for mobile development.

Finally, the report site includes a dynamic Resources section http://chnm.gmu.edu/labs/mobile-for-museums/resources/, with a Yahoo Pipe of feeds from museum-related websites discussing mobile topics. A public Zotero group offers a growing, annotated bibliography of current resources, and is open for all to join and to contribute other research in the field: http://www.zotero.org/groups/mobile_museums/items.

CHNM encourages collaboration and discussion of our findings and prototypes, through commenting directly on the site. We hope that this research and development will encourage more institutions to share their development and experiments with the greater museum community.

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